Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Right Field Breakdown

I was going to do the entire outfield but Centerfield and Leftfield aren't set yet. Rightfield is easy.

Jay Bruce (.223/.303/.470/.773/100, 22 HR, 58 RBI)

Jay turns 23 on Saturday and is a cornerstone of the team. That is awfully young to be one of the faces of the franchise but he seems to take it in stride. He injured his wrist last season which limited him to 101 games. Despite the lost time he still hit 22 HRs and drew a decent amount of walks. His batting average is the one area he needs to improve. If he were to hit .270, his OBP would rise to .350. That is respectable for a right fielder and something that would make him a power in the middle of the order thanks to his high slugging. If he stays healthy the entire year I could see 35 HRs and a 140 OPS+, great numbers for a 23 year old, above average right fielder.

Hopefully the Reds will make their final cuts so I can complete the breakdowns.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shortstop breakdown

The season is getting close so let's get through these last few positions.

Orlando Cabrera (.284/.316/.389/.705/86, 9 HR, 77 RBI)

Orlando is one of the big offseason acquisitions for the Reds. He started last season in Oakland before being traded to Minnesota at the deadline. He struggled in pitcher friendly Oakland putting up an 81 OPS+ but turned it on in Minnesota posting a 94 OPS+ in the intensity of the playoff race. His defense is about average, nothing flashy but not a liability either. He brings 34 games of postseason experience with him and will help provide some veteran leadership that the Reds desperately need. I expect an improvement in the NL and GAB while maintaining his defense. Overall he is an upgrade over Alex Gonzalez, last seasons starter, and his backup Paul Janish.

Paul Janish (.211/.296/.305/.601/69)

The question with Janish has always been whether he has the bat to make it in the pros. Last season he struggled, hitting 100 points lower in OPS then Cabrara. If he could make up that deficieit he would be considered a solid player. Anything near a 90 OPS+ would be enough to secure the job but I am not sure he can do that. He can get away with his sub par batting because by all accounts he is an amazing shortstop. His range is expansive and he can make any play. There is still a chance he will improve since he is only 26 but that time is running out. For now he will backup Orlando and be ready to step in if there is an injury. I hope he can hit enough to take the job next season because he is a treat to watch with the glove.

Cabrara is the starter and will be given every chance to succeed. His hitting should be improve since he leaves cavernous Oakland in the AL to hitter friendly Great American in the NL. I expect a 95 OPS+ and average defense or let Janish have his chance.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NCAA thoughts

-I was pretty hit or miss on my picks. I thought the Big East was the best conference and Kansas would roll to the final four. Both horribly wrong. Nova, Louisville, and Marquette were bad and Kansas got caught off guard by UNI. I did pick Michigan State and Xavier to go the sweet 16. I also had Murray State who upset Vandy and came within a minute of moving on so it wasn't all bad. I did one bracket that was the opposite of what I thought and that one is dominating. I had 11 of 16 and still have 7 of 8 in Great Eight and all the final 4. Last year my instincts were right. This year my George Constanza opposite instincts are right. Funny how that happens.

-This weekends games should be fun to watch. UK will blast Cornell Thursday but in the game of life I will take Cornell every time. Their game against WVU should be fun as those are 2 of the 4 best teams left. The midwest region could be a Big Ten rematch with Michigan State vs. Ohio State. Never go against Izzo. Duke looks like they will face a tough test in Baylor but should make a final four for the first time in a decade or so. Would be fun to see them play UK in the final four. All the ghosts of tourny pasts would come out in Indy. In the West, it is a tossup. I think Cuse is the best team but Butler, Xavier and K State are all very similar. I am rooting for Xavier but none of those teams would be a surprise. 

-This is some of the best basketball of the year because you have the best teams and the most pressure. Last weekend was about upsets, this weekend is about great basketball. Making the final four is the goal. Once you get there it is just a party so be sure to watch the games Saturday and Sunday. They will be a lot of fun and there will be at least one classic game.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Third Base breakdown

Sorry this wasn't posted Friday. I drank and watched basketball for 10 hours. It was a glorious day right up until Louisville crapped on the floor.

Scott Rolen (.305/.368/.455/.823/.117, 11HR, 67 RBI)

The key phrase always used with Rolen is "when healthy." When healthy, he is a solid, everyday player. When healthy, he can hit for power, hit for average, and take a walk if needed. When healthy, he is the cornerstone of the infield making plays few others in the game can make and winning gold-gloves. Unfortunately, it keeps coming back to health.

The past 5 years he has played 56, 142, 112, 115, 128 games for an average of 111 games, or 2/3 of a season. If that average were closer to 150, he would be considered a top 25 player. Last season, almost immediately after he was acquired he was hit in the head and suffered a concussion causing him to miss 16 days. There is nothing he could have done about it, other then duck sooner, but nonetheless these things seem to follow him. He is like a third base version of Ken Griffey Jr.

The Reds extended his contract for 2 additional years in exchange for him taking a pay cut this year. That money was used to sign some Cuban, which looks to be good, but Rolen's chance of being a healthy contributor when the deal ends in 2013 is unlikely. At least the Reds seem to be trying to win now.

The other thing Rolen supposedly brings is clubhouse leadership. He is a 13-year veteran with 32 games of postseason experience including a world series win in 2006 with some team a few hours west. He is a big, commanding presence and could really help some of our young superstars like Bruce and Votto.

If he stays healthy, he can bat behind Votto, giving him some protection, and give the Reds a right hand power bat they have been lacking for years. If he gets hurt again, he will be an expensive DL player. One of the Reds best prospects is Juan Francisco, a young third basemen who can crush the ball. He also happens to strike out a lot and doesn't walk, not a good combination. In his cup of coffee last September, he did pretty well but it was only a few dozen at bats. He could make the team as a backup third basemen/left fielder or he could also be sent to Louisville to learn plate discipline and wait on a Rolen injury. The likely everyday backup is Aaron Miles, who can play basically any position but none very well.

No matter what happens, this position is an upgrade over Edwin Encarnacion and his "potential" that was never realized.

Will have another post this week about the crazy weekend of college basketball and maybe one after watching Chapman pitch tonight on FSN Ohio. He should start pitching in the 6th or about 5:30

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March Madness is here

The greatest weekend in sports is upon us. Boy do I love me some NCAA Tournament. Imagine if they had one in football? Sounds boring to me too. Here are some thoughts on the upcoming basketball bonanza.

-For those wondering what the schedule of games is, what games you get in your area, and who the announcers are going to be, here is the perfect site.

-Everyone fills out a bracket and no one cares about anyone's but their own so please don't talk about it. We don't want to know. "O, you picked all the 1 seeds. O you picked your favorite team? How original? How long did it take to come up with that, 5 seconds? Let me give you a cupcake."

-Having said that (why can't Curb Your Enthusiasm have Jerry and Larry on all the time), my wife picked hers and it had 2 upsets in the sweet 16, Xavier as a 6 and Michigan state as a 5. The other 14 were seeded 1-4. Her final 8 was all 1 and 2 seeds and the final four was all 1 seeds. She is quite the risk taker. I guess she used up all her risk taking when she agreed to marry me. Doesn't get any riskier then that.

-Here are how I pick brackets. First I take the teams I know to be good because I watched them and put them through. If I see 2 teams I don't know, I look at the conference. For example, Kentucky is good. I hate them but they are good. Move along. Texas and Wake Forest are 2 teams I haven't seen much but I know the Big 12 was above-average and the ACC was below average. Texas moves on. I also look at coaching. Tom Izzo scares the life out of me. Always has. That is why the one team I didn't want my team, Louisville, to play last year was Michigan State. Sure enough they were the 2 and Lousiville was the 1. Things didn't turn out well for the Cards. Other coaches I love are Jay Wright at Nova, Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, Tubby Smith at Minnesota, Jamie Dixon at Pitt, Bill Self at Kansas, and Kevin Stallings at Vandy. These are guys that can win games most coaches can't. On the flip side their are coaches who lose games they should win. Coaches such as John Caliperi at UK, Rick Barnes at Texas, Paul Hewitt at GT, Bob Huggins at WVU, Bruce Pearl at Tennessee, and John Thompson III at Georgetown. These must be taken into account. Another thing I look for is NBA talent on underachieving teams. Georgia Tech is the poster child for this. These are players that could be 1st round picks seeded 4 or higher and they know this could be the last game in front of pro scouts so they better step it up. This works well in College Football Bowl Games but those games don't matter and these do so it isn't as big but it is something I consider.

-Quick breakdown of the Midwest region. Kansas, Kansas, Kansas. Rolls to the final four. They are the best team in the country and have been all year. It would take a total fluke for them to lose before Indy. The only way is if they get a tough game next weekend against Michigan State or Maryland then have to play 48 hours later against Georgetown or Ohio State. Those are 4 of the top 20 teams in the land playing as hard as they can to take down the kings of basketball. Could be tough. Elsewhere I see this playing close to form with Georgetown and Ohio State playing on the bottom half and Kansas and Michigan State on the top. I know the 2 best conferences are the Big East followed by the Big 12 so I have Kansas-Georgetown in the Great 8. You will see this theme again.

-In the West I like a few upsets. Syracuse loses in the Great 8 to Kansas State in another Big East-Big 12 matchup. I like Xavier advancing to play Kansas State in the sweet 16. Why is Xavier overlooked so often? They have won 6 tournament games the past 3 years and should have had more if the refs didn't protect Greg Oden and OSU in 2007. They played in a good conference, certainly as good as the Pac-10 and maybe SEC, and have a few NBA caliber players. Look out for them. On the top half I could see Cuse playing any of the 4 teams from Vandy-Murray St-UTEP-Butler. Those teams are identical. I suspect that will be the site of some upsets. Let's go with Murray St. Western KY did it from that spot a few years ago and Murray is located only a few hours from there. Kansas State should make the final four after beating Xavier and Cuse next weekend.

-The East could also see some upsets because of the level of talent. Kentucky has the best team money can and did buy but are they prepared? They played 2 games against teams seeded 1-5, both against Vandy. In order to win the region they would have to beat 3 teams in a row that are better then Vandy. Tall order for a team starting a bunch of freshman who play emotionally, and know the second they lose they start collecting huge money from sponsors, agents, etc. Not saying it won't happen but don't be surprised if they lose a round or two early. Caliperi has done that a few times. Wisconsin is a good team and should make the sweet 16 and test the University of Memphis at Lexington with physical, intimidating basketball. I see the bottom half as Big East heavy with Marquette and West Virginia both making the Sweet 16. I like West Virginia over Wisconsin in the Great 8.

-My homerism really comes out in the South region. I like Louisville to upset Duke and here is why: Louisville can play with anyone. They beat Cuse twice, beat WVU but the refs blew it(the apology from the Big East officials almost made up for it), had Nova on the ropes and even took a lead against UK in the second half in Rupp Arena. The other reason is Duke will only have 1 day to prepare for Louisville's zone and press, something no other team plays. Duke struggled away from Cameron and got embarrassed when playing Georgetown and their physical Big East style. I like the Cards for those reasons, but then again, I am a homer. For the rest of the bracket I like Texas A&M, another solid Big 12 team, to beat the Cards and make the great 8 against Nova, who dispatches Baylor. Nova then wins to make the final four.

-In the final four, I think Kansas beats K State on the Big 12 side and West Virginia beats Nova on the Big East side. Rock, chalk, Jayhawk in the finals. I know everyone is picking them but I am going with the best team. So sue me.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Second Base Breakdown

Brandon Phillips (.276/.329/.447/.776/102, 20 HR, 98 RBI, 25 SB)

Phillips had a solid 2009 thanks to his hitting and defense. He did not win another gold glove but did finish above average in the defensive metrics. His hitting had improved as he has adjusted to being an everyday player. His walks have gone from 33 to 39 to 44 which shows he is becoming more patient at the plate. If he can get that number over 50 and continue hitting at .275 his OBP would be up to .345, a very good number for a second basemen playing great defense. His K's have also fallen the past 3 years from 109 to 93 to 75. All these are signs of a hitter coming into his own. He is only 28 and still in his prime for a few more years so he can continue to be a conrnerstone of the franchise. His backup will probably be Aaron Miles or Drew Sutton, both competing for the super-sub role. Brandon's future with the club is still somewhat of a mystery.

He makes $6.75 million this year, $11 million next year and a $12 million dollar team option for 2012. At the time it seemed reasonable but now that $11 million is way too high and the $12 million will never be touched. He wants to be a leader but it doesn't appear his teammates have totally bought in. The Reds will have to monitor how he is in the locker room to determine if he is someone they want to keep around or trade for minor leaguers and promote one of the top prospects to 2nd base. Getting all or even part of that 11 million in 2011 off the payroll would provide some financial relief, something always important to the bottom 15 payrolls who have no chance of winning the world series. His situation could get interesting if the Reds are out of it at the deadline and someone needs a solid 2nd basemen. Some of our best prospects are younger, cheaper, and can play 2nd. I hope he stays but wouldn't be shocked to see him traded in July for a prospect and financial relief.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Links to real writing

I know this is where you go for real journalism so here are a few well written, well researched, and overall amazing pieces of writing I have read the past few weeks. I implore my readers to read at least one. Try and get through them all. They are long but worth it.

-A fantastic look at Roger Ebert from Esquire. This has been going around for a while and there is a reason for it. It is really good. The picture is shocking because he had his jaw removed after cancer was found but the description of his daily life is inspiring. His blog is also good at Will Leitch has his own Ebert story here in which he apologizes for being an ass. One journalist down, 1,000 more to go for Leitch.

-My favorite author, and one of the best writers in America, Michael Lewis comes out and hits another home run. I could read this guy describe paint dry. This one is and excerpt from his new book on the fall of the economy is 2008. The piece describes a guy who foresaw the first housing decline in 70 years and made tons of money. Pretty amazing stuff if you take the time to read it.

-Couldn't get through one of these without a link to the best sportswriter around Joe Posnanski. This one is even better because it is about the Reds' new pitching sensation Aroldis Chapman. He says they hype is justified. I am really hoping Dusty is gone before his arm is ruined.

-For all those Facebook addicts, this is who is profiting off your wasted time. Our fellow (former?) writer Tom Tremendous knows first hand since he was there and this story is what actually happened. Short version: He stole the idea from people who hired him to do the programming.

-Nice article on Bobby Gonzalez in the New York Times. He is considered the biggest ass in the Big East and I can only imagine this will help as he prepares for the Big East Tourny in MSG. Good luck Bobby.

-SI's Don Banks goes after Quarterback Kobe Rothlisberger. I love watching Steelers fans get knocked down a peg almost as much as I like watching UK fans get knocked down a peg. Don't pretend you are better then every other team because you aren't, you are just like every other team, winning is all that matters, tradition and character be damned.

-Get ready for LOST tonight. Only 10 left...

-And finally, hope everyone saw the Syracuse-Louisville game. If not you can read about it here, here, or here, or check out this picture which pretty much sums it up.


Friday, March 05, 2010

First Base Breakdown

Joey Votto (.322/.414/.567/.981/155 OPS+ in 544 PA's. 25 HRs, 84 RBIs, and 38 2Bs)

Those are damn good numbers especially for a 25 year old who was also dealing with the loss of his father and other issues. After missing a week in May and three weeks in June to deal with those issues, he managed to return and play at the same high level. Let's hope this season he can stay on the field and put up solid numbers again. He should get a chance to play everyday if he is healthy. His backups will be various OF's or utility players who need a few AB's when Joey is off.

His nearest competition for the everyday job raises an interesting question on the Reds future. The development this spring is what do you do when your best prospect, Yonder Alonso, happens to play the same position as your best everyday player, Joey Votto. Does one find a new position? If so, which one? Does one get traded? If so which one?

On the one hand, Alonso has been working in the outfield and third base at times in Arizona but most scouts feel he can only play first due to his big build and lack of speed and agility. He will be a 1B/DH type and there is no sense in him learning other position if he will never see time there. That time would better be spent hitting and learning 1B.

On the other hand, Joey is a 1B. He may have the speed and agility to play LF but why would he move there? He has worked hard at first base and become above-average so why should he have to learn a new position, especially if it may effect his hitting? He has proven he can be an everyday 1B thanks to his quality hitting and improved defense. He is also the best position player and a team leader. Those players don't like to move positions (see Jeter, Derek)

The Reds are in a bit of a pickle on this one. Both players are still young and inexpensive so there is no pressing monetary reason for them to act now. However, Joey starts arbitration next season and Alonso cannot be in the minors past 2011 so it is either this season or next season when something must be done. Both have high trade values but it would be difficult to get equal value in return since the other teams are in the position of power knowing the Reds have to trade one player. I think they should try and lock up Votto for 4 or 5 years at a low salary, as most teams do with cornerstone players. (Longoria, Upton, Braun) If that happens then you show Alonso off at AAA then trade him for a stud SS prospect, stud Catching prospect, or a power hitting LF. Those are the 3 areas the Reds have the most need. If Votto doesn't want a deal or one can't be agreed on, trade him next season before he starts making big money and give Alonso the everyday 1B job. I just don't see a way for both to be on the field at the same time unfortunately.

If I were the Reds, Alonso is too much of a wild card. I make sure I can lock up Votto and trade Alonso this season. Once I get a nice return for him, I have Votto sign for 4 or 5 years, taking him to 30, and worry about the rest of the team. If Alonso becomes a star somewhere else it won't be so bad because he wouldn't have played here anyway.

1B should not be a cause for concern for the Reds until 2015 thanks to the great depth. The key is turning that great depth into other pieces that will help the rest of the team.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

TV Talk

Back to the Reds position breakdown Friday. For now, I will talk about the TV I am watching.

Saturday & Sunday

-Sports (all networks, all day)

Pretty simple. This is the time you watch football, basketball or baseball and sleep to golf or nascar. The only non-sports show worth watching is Saturday Night Live which is good about one out of every four now that Will Farrell is gone. I miss him. I need more cowbell!


-How I Met Your Mother (CBS 8:00)

I was skeptical of this show because CBS always shoves it down our throats during NFL games but after watching it for a while I came to appreciate it. The writing is great and Doogie Howser and the tall guy from Knocked Up are funny. The problem is the main character is the least funny character so they have to write around him. Not sure how long they can keep that up but I will keep watching for now. It gave us the greatest joke ever: What's the difference between Peanut Butter and Jam? (Answer at the end)

-Greek (ABC Family 10:00)

It is on ABC Family which isn't the best but it is about college kids who drink and hook up, not what you would expect. The writing is good and the situations are as close to real greek life as I have seen in a TV show. The problem is it has been going for a while so the characters are supposed to be 22 but look 30. That and they need fresh characters. I think this show is about to hit a wall. Easter Egg: The main character looks hot at first until you realize she is Kelsey Grammer's daughter. Then all you can think of is that she is Fraiser with tits. Scary.


-LOST (ABC 9:00)

The best show on TV right now. Nothing else to say. I will miss it when it is gone.


-Modern Family (ABC 9:00)

The best new show on TV because it is the best written show on TV. It has the deadpan interview setup of The Office and the dysfunctional family aspect of Arrested Development. Al Bundy is the dad with a new Colombian wife and her ten year old who acts 40. The second couple is Al's daughter with 3 teenage kids and a husband going through a midlife crisis. He is inappropriate and awkward, like Michael Scott mixed with Buster Bluth. The final couple is Al's gay son and his partner who recently adopted a Chinese baby. Every couple is hilarious and their interactions are priceless. A must watch every week.

-Cougartown (ABC 9:30)

Yeah, I know, Courtney Cox is old and not funny. True. But every time I think I am out there comes at least 3 moments when I laugh out loud. Her ex-husband on the show is great and really the only reason I watch. First on the chopping block if I cut one but I will always give a show a season to work the kinks out.


-Community (NBC 8:00)

Rough start but has come on strong the second half. Aved and Troy are the best characters and have gotten more attention now that they have stopped focusing on the will-they-wont-they of Jeff and the blond chick. Chevy Chase is unfunny but doesn't ruin it. I think the show has potential and I am glad they worked out the early problems.

-Parks and Recreation (NBC 8:30)

The first season was mediocre but this one has been amazing. I have never seen a show make the tournaround this one has. If it were a baseball player, everyone would be making PED jokes. The writing has been brilliant and the cast has really come together. The interactions make for plenty of awkward and uncomfortable scenes which I love. If you didn't like the first season, I implore you to try again. You will not be disappointed.

-The Office (NBC 9:00)

The show is still going strong. After Jim and Pam got together I thought the show was done but they have kept it going. The wedding episode was great and now they are having a baby. I think the show is starting to get redundant but I have thought it was done before. Still one of the best and, while not every episode is a home run, most are still above average.

-30 Rock (NBC 9:30)

Not sure what to make of this show. The last two seasons were amazing but this one isn't quite on that level. That doesn't mean it isn't one of the best on TV because it is. I am just worried it is on the way down instead of the way up. 30 Rock has earned a must watch but unless it picks it up the next few episodes, it will fall to the 3rd or 4th best Thursday night show. I still have hope it will turn around. Also, Alec Baldwin is amazing and the best character on any show. He makes it worth watching.


-Friday Night Lights (NBC)

This show will get its own post at some point. I know people always tell you its great and it gets so annoying that you don't want to watch it for spite but please don't do that. It is worth it. These people are right and you will regret not watching it.

Those are what you should watch. All 3 of you.

Answer to the joke: I can't Peanut Butter my dick in your ass